Friday’s teleconference between an OUS committee, ASUO President Laura Hinman and the vice president of Student Affairs Robin Holmes raised questions about hiring an outside firm to campaign for the passing of EMU renovations in October.
Because of the high cost of the proposed EMU renovation, $135 million, and the minimal student involvement in its planning, University of Oregon students have voted down the referendum. Well, now the administration, yes the suits in Johnson Hall, have hired RBI Strategies & Research using auxiliary funds to direct a political campaign designed to procure a yes vote from the student body this fall, which would raise tuition fees for each student over $100 per term.
According to an AP post on OregonLive.com, the firm worked on presidential campaigns for Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean and Al Gore.
The campaign proposal is especially interesting, asserting the need to have certain phrases in mind considering “what we say about opponents”, including “narrow-minded,” “stuck in past,” “stubborn,” “opinions based on misconceptions,” etc. “Keeping up with the Pac-12″ in student buildings is cited as a selling point as well. This is wholly conniving in the context of college students and a bill of $135 million… But that’s not the best part.
The proposed campaign slogan of RBI (a Denver-based campaign firm) touts a strong declaration: “Our Legacy. Our Pride. Our Union. Vote YES.” They plan to spend $20,000 to $30,000 on T-shirts, drawstring backpacks, banners, table tents, stickers, and other items to grease up these wheels.
Luckily, Chief Administrative Officer Kirk Schueler called the marketing report contracted by the EMU Renovation Task Force “very biased,” addressing the lack of focus on student voter turnout, according to this Daily Emerald post.
As quoted in the Oregon Live post mentioned above, Lamar Wise pointed out (and rightly so), “When millions of dollars are on the line, and students are paying for it, their voice should come first.” Wise also cast off the notion that the UO should need to “keep up with the Pac-12″, comparing it to “keeping up with the Joneses.” ZING.
So, let us all hope that this new “communication strategy” steers more toward the “educational campaign” that it should be and less toward the “political campaign” that RBI wants it to be. After hearing concerns last Friday, vice president of Student Affairs Robin Holmes and the EMU Renovation Team will reconsider the proposal of RBI, or perhaps even its hiring, at the expense of the students.